wrangling

On foot today. 
The tops of the sage brush bushes are held under a neon light
which is held under the blanket of dawn.

A citrus color. 
Sage is the color of frost on grass in shade.
The horses are in the middle meadow breathing with their heads down.

Little leaves find their way between my fingers and roll around stripping themselves of their scent and falling behind me when I'm ready for a fresh one.
Spiced palms and fingertips.

An old trail.
My boots are ripped and follow the clearing that the horses make
which is clumsy and doesn't wind or flow or lead anywhere.

I’m not alone.
We make whoops and noises and noses rise and rock and slide and knicker and wander
to the corner of the pasture.

We close the gates.
Dust rises, they fight and play then settle.
The sun is up, the day commenced.

 

For a moment I felt it creep towards me while I whispered
come closer
like I was luring a mouse
or a mistake
and in the dark I didn’t even know what it was
just that the moon was full so the grass was bright gray
and the shadows held something sad
something silent and drowning.

I dropped everything to save it;
must have been innocence
must have been cut into pieces or wishing
like me.
The palm of my hand was unwashed;
unwanted
but by this. 

It never did come out
I read it Shakespeare at night and
left it bread for breakfast. 
Just a feeling,
it must have been just a soul
hiding out there, trying to sleep. 

I am deciding whether to keep waiting and coaxing
or if it is time to recant
and crawl with it into the shade from this tiresome bright.

There’s something somber about a hand at rest,
with nothing to write and nothing to grasp.
Young hands get so tired of doing nothing
they turn into old hands
that shake incessantly.

But a hand at rest could be so peaceful
if only the mind was too;
a hand in meditation
an aid in mediation.

A hand that has known toil
will know the pleasure of stillness
when it pauses to reflect on its scars.

The rougher the hand is,
the softer the mind.

Because when the young hands learn how to have something to do
they can hold their breath
without forming a fist.

The candlelight is magic. 
The moon’s earthly daughter sired by the sun
is young and innocent and kind.

The woods creak, some old arthritic trees greeting the wind.
People come and go so quickly
people hit my leaves and run. 

The ground feels like refrigerated marshmallows or raw meat
it gives under my feet so slightly
like it doesn’t want to hurt my knees.

It falls apart beneath me as I try desperately to fix the rocks
replace to soil
reconnect the mating bugs.

The candlelight is magic
slowly sipping wax
the wind passes and the flame folds and springs back up
always on its way to death, 
dancing, dying, 
the epitome of living.

the horses cheekbones sing
shadows deepen
and the sky falls, not to darkness
but to baby clothes
wrinkled, waiting to swaddle the earth in lullaby colors
and all the while
our stories
stashed in a wood stove
smolder
until stars start to clutter our sky and silhouettes of charred trees scar the horizon.

we brush our teeth with moondust
and if thouse clouds were a renaissance of color, this dark is a renaissance of youth
innocence and imagination steal us away from the staleness of things
insisting on being
awake
humbled by the sweetness of now
fear sinks deep into the slithering of the creek
and the horses cheekbones sing.

The shame of a dog
stirred by the rightness of words.
They were written in the sky like
I love you I love you I love you,
blown away to be written again
somersaulting in this inevitable sweetness
that everyone wants to lick from someone else's lips,
so sweet and impossible that even history tried to rewrite itself
rubbing a stale eraser to smudge words that meant something,
at some point.
And all for freedom. 
Some tantalizing non thing.

Would anything be free,
Would death be,
Would silence or sleep or solitude be,
No. 
Our skeletons are solid and our souls stolen
our movements dictated by maybe the sun or moon or past.
And oppressed by the sky
we are only winged so we may pollute the air with sadness like
I love you I love you I love you.

THE ROPE

I’m working on braiding
a rope of regrets,
and every night I sit in my hallway by the light of my black lamp
wishing that I hadn’t started

braiding the rope this way, because
now I have to keep braiding the rope this way,
and if I had thought to braid the rope differently at first
I wouldn’t have to
keep braiding it this way.
I hold each thread taught --  
the opposite end is tied to my bed post
which keeps getting farther away.
I am trying to braid my way to Kansas
but it is hard and I keep
getting letters in the mail from
charities asking me to donate,
and all of my time spent opening letters
takes away time from the rope I am trying to braid to Kansas.
And even though I wish I had braided it
differently, the good news is
if I braid a rope all the way to Kansas
everyone will be very impressed,
and I will be able to eat perishable foods again and
I will be so happy to not be braiding ropes or opening letters anymore.

SOUP

At the end of every summer the days start to vanish -
the skies turn white,
and then gray,
and then overwhelmingly, endlessly, inescapably
black.

We ran into that house with the wind
Stomping up steps the snow would fall off

our wet boots and squeals and laughs and cries would fall out
of our cold cracking violet lips
And we would close the door on darkness.
My heart kept time slowly then,
its rhythm stronger and steadier than the shiver that ran through my skin.

We would sit down side by side on matching green pillows
short legs stuffed under a small table.
Our bowls of spiced soup steamed before us,
the sacred red broth mixing with our blood
so our arms and legs and hearts could grow.

The days are white, turning gray
but this time
when it’s black I’ll be alone
standing over a stove in someone else’s kitchen
remembering those perfect bowls
that served to satiate our sleepy souls.

As my heartbeat fades beneath the sound of my chattering teeth
I’ll keep bowls of gypsy soup
warm on the table
and wait for my brother to
wander in from the cold.

 

 

On an empty street I can hear my two tires on the wet pavement
sticky like loaded paint rollers on primed walls,
masking tape loosing itself from itself.

Quiet clicks of gears I coast down an avenue of deep indigo
no lines to follow, no cars to dodge
my shortcut promptly proves dead end.

in the company of lonesome howling wandering wind
air slides through my ear canals and oils the marrow of my bones;
my skin evaporates.

An unlit sign on the left reads “Harvard Divinity School”
and leads me towards paved paths drawn in the shape of infinity signs.
The sky seems finite, filling in the gaps between rooftops and I follow it

weaving around patches of grass, disoriented
not even the north star appears.
I believe in churches but I don’t believe in God.

Picking up speed, the wind acts as if it is trying to erase me and
I steer down the asphalt I trap myself in walls of black stone and dark
green trees hiss as the breeze snags their needley skeletons.

I wait for rain but the clouds are concrete, unmoving apparitions
that mock the temper of the air growling loudly, like
the moon thrown down a bowling alley.

I make four more infinity signs before I turn around to find town
The clouds dissolve and beads of water beat the back of my neck.
A four year commute and all I got was lost.

IF, AND IT'S DARK

Sometimes when I walk home
and it’s dark
I imagine getting shot in the back of the head
a little cylinder lodged between my spine and skull
nestling into a dense chunk of nerves

It would be bloody
warm and wet, dripping down the back of my neck
I would touch it and
rub the lava into my thumbs and palms

Or if I fell
blood would pool beside me
shimmering like night-time gasoline
finding ways to trace me and slip
between my buttcheeks, if I’m on a hill

It would taste like metal when I start coughing it up
it would feel like a sports game when it streams out my ears

the materials of my body presented to me like
that halloween game with buckets and blindfolds

That’s what I sometimes imagine when I walk home
and it’s dark.

EXCUSE LETTER

Dear Professor Clark,

I'm sorry I couldn't make it to class today, I had to rearrange my room at 2am last night.
I had to put the desk across from the window and next to the bookshelf, and then I had to clear off the bookshelf so nothing would distract me when I sat to work.
I had to turn the bed so the draft would come in at my knees instead of my nose. And then I had to put my dresser off center on my back wall so that there would be a space for my backpack when I come home.
I had to throw out all the clothes I don't wear, I had to throw out all the socks without matches even though I wear them unmatched all the time.
I had to read all the papers in my dresser drawer, I had to throw them all out. I had to make sure my plants belonged on the shelf on the left not the shelf on the right, I had to move my coin cup beside my jewelry box, I had to make sure the colors of the bindings of my books were in the same order as the room.
I had to devise a new strategy of hanging my dresses and jackets, I had to put my bedside table in my closet for my bike helmet. I had to decide where my basket of clothes would go so that I can't be careless when putting things away, I had to move my trash can so it wouldn't be the first thing I see in the morning.
I had to hang the picture of my brother up high.

And then I had to go to sleep, 
And when my alarm rang at noon I saw the sunlight on my succulents and my bag was ready for me by the door, who was cracked,
And everything had a purpose except maybe
me.

See you next week,
Maureen

too far

the sun shone every day
my mother hid underground
fed the mice, slept in wrinkled sheets
I collected freckles and my skin darkened

black signals in smoke from home
were smudged overseas
every word rang wrong in tin-can phones
ears sent in envelopes
I listened like an ant farm
I listened like a boy

 

too close

everything seemed the same
some summertime-forever illusion
my mother just wanted sympathy
I just liked the green grass and quiet
impermanence inconceivable it was
always there
there were no ghosts
the smoke was only black
to roast marshmallows on coals
I basked in tasty gooey moonlight
while shadows ate the climbing tree
graham cracker graham cracker
my mother rose, finally changed her clothes
and melted into
home, as it was

 

in the middle

utopia is static
dystopia too dramatic
I look for snacks to unwrap
I look for black smoke
some virus keeps us all from
sleeping at home
some train takes me
back
and forth
and back
to nowhere, nowhere, nowhere again
the realtor calls every year on my birthday
I lick my paws
I wait

 

 

too slow

like ripping off
band aids slowly
just pulling off freckles with little hairs
one
by one
by one
skin so white it could be molting
our dead dog sleeping in a tin can phone
my mother carves tallies in her bones
nothing’s gone
nothing’s staying
sand stone foundation swaying
I feel for grass beneath my feet
I feel for my feet
I feel like I am almost free
falling

RUG-BURN AND CONSEQUENCE

Your burgundy wool
sweater was like your burgundy mouth.
Lumpy-sweet lollipop cheeks
we were lit
lucky strike cigarettes
dopamine dopes, slugs on drugs
slowly burning down to butts.

Long hair, long days, long sighs
refusing to sign for our covenant with time
You were impossible.
Third generation mule, eyebrows after Botox.

We played cards
go fish, old maid
I was a fist full of meatloaf mushing
between some man’s fingers
beans smushed into the rug.

You were a sleazy salesman
sweet-seeming skeeze
snuck a banana peel beneath my feet
watched me slip, worked me like hammer on hot metal
flattened me.

A burgundy mouth spat red wine in my eyes.
I spit at burgundy tulips.

2/29

This day rolled in like red wine.
Cool and fun like mmmmmmud
pies blueberry blue mouths
salivating, waiting for the clouds to move
mercury rising, thin red line draws a picture of
summertime. Imagine
my supple skin
chewing gum
smiling, spoiled like
mom bought the good kind of toilet paper.
Homegrown tomatoes eaten like apples
grass grows between my toes and up to my
knees this fool’s
gold february spring has me drooling.

MOROCCAN MINT

Makes me think of you
Sticky sweet fresh

Smile lined soul eyes closed it smelled like
Mint and motor oil, syrup and grass clippings.

We took so many eight hour drives
Limbs falling asleep
Pins and needles making the clock
Obsolete, I counted on nothing


But you, groggy back seat best friend never
An ounce of resentment when I pinch your arm and scold you for not looking hard enough, just
Delight

You are nothing on the camel’s back
You are clear still water
streak free shine
window on a sunny day
wind behind my kite.

Violet sunilght, yellow shadows we wandered
hooves hung near heads
of lettuce our apples and pancakes went well with laughing
cow cheese for breakfast

stucco walls were steeped in secrets
we whispered to the tiled rooms
Sahara sand glowed like a sister
of the sun, the sky was vast and growing only
because you saw it
delighted
welt rising on the flesh of your forearm

you taste mint tea and I
miss you.

NEIGHBOR

Noon comes in yellow through the window and where there is light there are floating particles
lingering

on your way out you stirred up the dust in the house like shallows of a clear pond
one foot kicks
up nine months worth of settled muck and it slides between toes and the feet biting fish are invisible in the messy water.
You’re gone
money to a broken vending machine
sunshine in two billion years.

A bulb broke
then sent currents up my arm and down my spine as I twisted in a new one
charred fingertips
write letters to you in black and white drawings with no address I save
$0.00 on postage.

I’m a queen
rocking on my wooden throne with cigarettes laced between each finger wondering
who drank the gin?

The sky is white
And the air smells like linens,
tastes like gasoline.

The sign outside the church asks if we’re
ready for judgement day and
the first leaf falls to the sidewalk
beside the stiff corpse of a field mouse;
the transparent landscape bitten by a rich sangria.

I wriggle like a germ on a scraped knee
crawling between pale flesh and damp red blood
I panic, I sprint, I starve.

The flowers, full and heavy with color
can barely hold themselves up anymore - 
they are cut by our hands and as they
bend and weep and wither in their search for the earth,
they are forced to kiss our toes.

The earth is white,
the air is stolen from our lungs in
sharp
cold
bites.

 

 

DEPARTURE

When I told you goodbye it felt like I had just slammed all my fingers in a door,
cracked every one of those tiny little bones
so they dangled from my hand like wind chimes.

Years later another door closes behind me,
and walking along this familiar trail I’m soothed by a soft rain
cool and dripping from the most colorless sky I have ever seen.
In the still corners of a pond stagnant water breeds blood suckers;
mosquitoes with a six hour life span spend their time chewing away at me.
Exploding out of dark soil, new growth cries for the sun and the clouds promise “later”
but green is impatient and leaves stretch and settle in today’s shade.

I’ve said more hellos than goodbyes since I’ve been alive
but my heart is heavy with the frequency of leaving.
I could stay one place forever
but I have more than six hours to kill and more to do than chew on someone.
In spite of sore fingers I know that love exists
as an exception to the rule of impermanence,
regardless of the clouds in the sky
the green in the trees
and the number of steps I have walked in the number of days I’ve been away.
Life is only nature disguised as yous and mes,
and nature is only love with seasons.

THE FOUNTAIN AT TWILIGHT

The day escapes into a sea of sleepy air;
the warmth of the sun is swallowed by
the sound of water flowing into water
which leaks into the sound of my breath.
I inhale,
exhale cooly.

While the water falls, a girl turns on her lights and closes her windows.
A couple on the stoop beside me speaks in low murmurs then
falls silent.
One of them leaves and the rhythm of heels hitting stone sets the tempo,
andante;
I flick away a little black beetle who creeps along my unshaved thigh.

The rising moon provokes the impatience of the sky.
It feels like a giant wave approaching;
taller than my father
but falling faster,
loud, booming and mysterious
waiting for the right time to let go.

Street lights hold stubbornly on to their incandescent glow
but I belong to the ebb of blue sleepy air.
My lungs release something of my soul to the sky
and my body blends into the dark ground as I stand to leave.

Time is not a collection of years that we can count and categorize
but a tragic, incorruptible tendency of nature
ready to erase our memories like the light of the sun,
just as it ushered them in.